First let's pretend I'm writing this from the lobby of our nice hotel (Indochina, Nha Trang) before setting off on our scooters Tuesday morning.
Where Mui Ne was the quaint resort town, consisting mainly of a single "strip" along the coast and a couple of adjoining roads for local people to live, Nha Trang is a town without the sprawling appearance of Ho Chi Minh (whose border is fluid and may extend anywhere from 10 miles to 30 radially) but with the characteristic menagerie of shops, a million replications of the same cafes, street traders, tourist offices (which may or may not actually be able to book you on something) and hotels. It's easy to see how a tourist could become lost here, but fortunately we both had an expat guide and the knowledge that each town has a carefully cultivated backpacker area, where the English skills are that bit better and the people less likely to try it on. First, we had to get there.
I'm not sure how I imagined a sleeper coach, but what we got was like something out of a steampunk or anime world. A single decker bus with rows of half bunk/half chair creations, some poesssing the ability to sit more up right than others, some with leg room, others with weird "leg boxes" under the next person's seat and some clearly not designed for the height of Westerners! The air conditioning was weak and the pillows darkly comical, with weird cartoon characters as if stolen from (or maybe just got rid of by) a children's ward. It was the back seats which were most interesting, alternating as they did between seat at the rear of a row with a leg box, and seat at the end of an aisle.
After trying one broken seat and another uncomfortable one on the top deck I eventually gave in and moved below into the enclosure formed by the top 5 seats, where I had a strange alcove of 5 such seats to myself. Despite there being barely enough room to sit up here I had the most fun, as the rear windows could open, I had a camera and we spent a good 3 hours driving past amazing mountainous scenery in beautiful late afternoon sunlight. Rolling from side to side as we turned corners and new sights appeared, sticking my head out of the window for the right shot, as if a commando on a mission (dark) and occasionally having to pull it back in as we edged just a little too close to a lorry the driver had chosen to overtake.
The driving. Ah yes. I mentioned previously that the roads of Ho Chi Minh are governed by size, tenacity and the use of one's horn; our driver decided they were governed by him and even more liberal use of his horn. I doubt barely a minute went by without it sounding, such that for the first hour we were on tenterhooks, as a few times we would swing back into our lane and (from our limited vantage point on the top deck) just catch sight of an approaching lorry, a second before it would have hit us. Chicken has never been played with more conviction by large vehicles. Upon moving to the bottom and between bouts of photography I sat in a seat which let me see directly out the front of the bus, like some theme park ride of near miss road accidents. Recording the sounds only, a constant interplay of different car horns, would give even the craziest joy rider the chills.
Nevertheless we made it to Nha Trang safely if slightly unnerved, and it wouldn't stop me taking the same bus again - I'll just bring a sound recorder.
Once checked into our hotel we agreed we all needed a stiff drink and wandered to the beach, happening upon the beach side entrance of a lavish complex combining a Vietnamese, Indian and Western restaurant. Shunning the western menus we were handed we chose a good selection of dishes, with mine probably coming out the lucky winner with roasted pork, spring rolls and noodles in a red sauce. For $1 a beer we stayed around a little too, not least because the front entrance off the road were now charging people to enter, a rare thing in Vietnam. Eventually ditching the glamorous surrounds we made our way to Why Not Bar, a name which wouldn't be out of place in Manchester's Northern Quarter - we were browsing but the free doubles on entry may have made our minds up! Another Ozzie bar, this one full of backpackers from all around the world we sampled their "Why Not" cocktail buckets, the name's themselves being our only justification, though the addendum to their entry on the menu "Free headache included" might have helped too. Still a little tired from the journey we headed to the hotel.
This morning we visited probably the best breakfast spot in town and I suspect the best we'll encounter on our travels, as we ate on the roof of a nearby hotel, who served a variety of local pancakes and fruits - though I was intrigued to see their take on French toast. It was accompanied by the now obligatory Ca Phue Sua Da and stunning views of the mountains separating Nha Trang's coastal plains from the central highlands and it's neighbouring city Da Lat.
Now we've hired some bikes so are off road tripping for a day of water based excitement!